Tribe cites ongoing violations to Clean Water Act, Endangered Species Act


TACOMA—The Puyallup Tribe on Thursday provided notice that it intends to sue Electron Hydro over its intentional ongoing violations of the Clean Water Act and Endangered Species Act.


The Tribe gave notice that it will file a lawsuit in federal court in 60 days against Electron Hydro and the collection of corporations that own, finance and control the hydropower company. The Tribe also asked that Electron abandon its plans to construct an unpermitted and unplanned rock dam structure on the Puyallup River during the next few weeks, or the Tribe may seek emergency relief from the court before the 60 days have passed. A notice of intent to sue does not obligate the Tribe to sue but is a necessary step on that path.


Electron Hydro LLC, which operates the dam, recently placed massive amounts of artificial turf into the Puyallup River. The action was part of Electron’s planned modifications to the dam to make diversion of water for power production more efficient.


The Puyallup River is home to spring chinook salmon, which are important to Tribal and non-Tribal fishers alike and a critical food source of endangered Southern Resident orcas. The century-old dam has long been a killer of salmon and has never complied with the Endangered Species Act.


In July 2020, Electron Hydro placed thousands of square yards of artificial turf in the channel of the Puyallup River. The turf contained crumb rubber that washed it downstream. Two months later, the turf is still in the water and continues to release crumb rubber pieces and fragments of plastic grass on the shorelines and vegetation. According to Electron’s own consultant, the crumb rubber has been washed down the entire length of the river below Electron Dam and into Commencement Bay.


In addition to the release of pollutants, Electron Hydro conducted separate maintenance in the facility’s forebay on July 29, 2020, that resulted in the deaths of thousands of fish.


The operator’s plan to continue to work—well past the work window that is typically allowed to protect fish—to build a rock dam in place of its original intended bladder dam would impose a whole new array of impacts on fish that could not be mitigated. This year’s runs of chinook, coho, and steelhead will be severely impacted.


“We’ve been fighting this battle for a very long time. Those are our traditional foods that are being taken away from us—and they’re not just for our benefit, they’re for everybody’s benefit,” Puyallup Tribal Council Vice Chairwoman Sylvia Miller said. “We will always be here to protect these resources, no matter what. Our goal is to recover that habitat and preserve it for our children and their children. That’s what we fight for.”


“The 116-year history of this project has been built on dead fish and damage to the river and its natural systems’ ecology,” said Tribal fisheries biologist Eric Marks.


The placement of the turf and the release of crumb rubber into the river violate both the Clean Water Act’s prohibition of releasing pollutants into waters of the United States and the Endangered Species Act’s prohibition of take of listed species. The fish kill in the forebay also violates the Endangered Species Act. In addition to the violations this summer, Electron’s requested work over the month of October would also result in multiple and ongoing violations of both the Endangered Species Act and Clean Water Act.


Puyallup Tribal Chairman Bill Sterud said the Tribe is outraged that artificial turf, which contains potentially toxic materials, was placed in the river.


“It’s hard to imagine a more terrible idea,” Sterud said. “The choice to place artificial turf in the water put our river, fish and even the Puget Sound at risk. I feel like we are living in a nightmare. We must hold the company responsible for these careless actions. We must fight for our fish, and our sacred waters.”



About the Puyallup Tribe of Indians
The Puyallup People have lived along the shores of what is now called Puget Sound since time immemorial. The Puyallup Tribe of Indians is a sovereign nation of more than 5,000 members and one of the largest employers in Pierce County. It serves its people and neighbors with generosity and is committed to building a sustainable way of life for future generations. Learn more about the Puyallup Tribe.


About the Puyallup Tribal Council
The Puyallup Tribal Council is the elected governing body of the Puyallup Tribe of Indians. The council consists of Chairman Bill Sterud, Vice Chairwoman Sylvia Miller, David Z. Bean, Annette Bryan, James Rideout, Anna Bean and Monica Miller.


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Contact:
Michael Thompson, Communications Director, Puyallup Tribe of Indians, (253) 382-6200; michael.thompson@puyalluptribe-nsn.gov


Lisa Pemberton, Content Manager, Puyallup Tribe of Indians, (253) 331-5453;
lisa.pemberton@puyalluptribe-nsn.gov